What to know when a medical error causes harm.
Medical and surgical errors occur every day in Massachusetts. They often result in serious injury or even death.
A medical malpractice lawsuit seeks damages for an injury caused by the neglect or medical error of a healthcare provider. This includes claims against hospitals, doctors, surgeons, nurses, therapists, nursing homes and many other medical providers.
In order to prove a case of medical malpractice in Massachusetts, you must prove:
- The doctor or healthcare provider was negligent.
- The negligence caused an injury.
- You sustained a loss or damages as a result of that injury.
If you or a loved one is a victim of medical malpractice in Boston, the medical malpractice lawyers at SUGARMAN are here to help.
Types of Medical Malpractice
Birth and Labor MalpracticeAny injury to a baby during pregnancy, labor or delivery is tragic. But when a medical provider fails to provide adequate medical care to mother or child, it’s even worse. Birth injury cases can have many causes, like:
- Failure to detect warning signs in fetal heart tracings
- Failure to timely order or perform a C-section
- Failure to diagnose a dangerous infection in a newborn
- Failure to treat when lab tests show problems
Verdict in labor and delivery medical malpractice case
Following a two-week trial in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston, SUGARMAN Principals Benjamin Zimmermann and David McCormack obtained a $30.55 million jury verdict on behalf of a child who suffered permanent and catastrophic brain injuries during his mother’s labor and delivery at a Boston hospital. The jury agreed that the nurse responsible for monitoring the baby’s heart rate and well-being during labor had failed to ensure that the baby was responding appropriately and that the nurse’s failure to comply with the standard of care resulted in the baby’s severe oxygen deprivation going undetected. The jury awarded damages for both the young boy and his parents.
Birth injury - Failure to diagnose fetal distress
Settlement from OB/GYN doctor in medical malpractice case for brain-injured child. The lawsuit alleges that the doctor failed to timely perform a C-section at a Boston hospital even after it became clear that the baby was in distress. The child suffered lifelong personal injuries as a result of the doctor's delay.
Birth trauma - Failure to diagnose and treat placental abruption during labor
SUGARMAN personal injury lawyers settled an OB/GYN medical malpractice/wrongful death lawsuit after jury verdict in favor of our clients whose newborn child died because of negligent delay in performing a C-section delivery.
Medical malpractice by doctor and nurse midwife
Wrongful death settlement for the death of baby shortly following birth. The OB/GYN doctor negligently used Pitocin during labor and left the mother in the care of a midwife.
Mismanagement of labor results in newborn's death
Settlement of medical malpractice case for parents of newborn who died several hours after her birth due to the mismanagement of her labor and delivery, resulting in severe anoxic injury.
Failure to diagnose hyperbilirubinemia in newborn
Settlement for bilateral hearing loss in newborn where lab test showed elevated levels, but lab and physicians failed to act.
Obstetrical malpractice for failure to perform emergency C-Section
Settlement against doctors who failed to perform a C-section in time, leading to oxygen deprivation and Cerebral Palsy in infant.
Failure to Diagnose CancerThe key to effective treatment of cancer is early detection. Doctors and nurses are trained to detect symptoms and complications that indicate a patient has early stage cancer. There are a number of diagnostic tests for early detection before a patient even begins having symptoms. For example, a colonoscopy or a mammogram. Unfortunately, some patients do not receive proper medical care and preventative testing. As a result, their cancer goes undetected, resulting in harm or even death.
Wrongful death following failure to report lung mass
Pre-trial settlement of medical malpractice case for widow against radiologist and his medical practice. The client's fifty-seven year-old husband had undergone an abdominal CT scan relative to gastrointestinal issues. The CT scan incidentally revealed a suspicious mass in the patient’s lung which was missed by the radiologist and never reported to the patient until it was found on a subsequent scan, resulting in a delay in diagnosis of lung cancer for nearly a year and a half. He underwent a resection, but the cancer returned months later. The patient was subsequently diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer and died the following year.
Failure to report abnormal CT scan results
Pre-lawsuit settlement for family of a 73-year-old widow who died from metastatic lung cancer after cardiothoracic surgeon failed to inform her of a mass in her lung visible on CT Scan three years earlier.
Colorectal cancer goes undetected
Settlement for family of man who died from colorectal cancer as a result of his primary care physician’s failure to perform a sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy or any of the accepted methods for screening and detecting colorectal cancer. By the time the patient’s colorectal cancer was diagnosed, it had metastasized to his liver and lungs.
Failure to diagnose lung cancer
Settlement against physicians who failed to follow up on x-ray report of mass in lung in 76-year-old patient who subsequently died from lung cancer.
Breast cancer - Misread mammogram
Medical malpractice settlement against radiologist for failure to properly read a mammogram and diagnose breast cancer in a mother of four young children.
Failure To Diagnose Melanoma
Settlement against pathologist who misdiagnosed mole as benign. Patient died of melanoma four years later.
Failure to Diagnose or Treat a Heart AttackA heart attack– called “myocardial infarction” by doctors – can be a crippling or even deadly event. Many patients display signs of an impending heart attack and seek treatment in time to prevent tragedy. But many times, the warning signs of a serious heart attack are overlooked by medical providers. They fail to render care or surgery, resulting in serious heart damage or death.
Man dies of heart attack after being sent home from health clinic
Substantial recovery for family of man in his fifties who was sent home from a walk-in clinic and died shortly thereafter from cardiac arrest.
Failure to diagnose fatal heart attack
Settlement in medical malpractice wrongful death case for family of a 47-year-old man who was improperly discharged from the hospital following failure to diagnose and treat an evolving heart attack, resulting in his death several hours after discharge. This was the second largest medical malpractice settlement reported in Massachusetts in 2017.
Failure to diagnose acute coronary episode
Settlement against a primary care physician following the death of a father of two children who died from myocardial infarction as a result of the defendant's failure to appreciate the severity and cause of the patient's complaints and failure to properly interpret the patient's EKG readings.
Medical malpractice - Doctor's failure to diagnose heart attack
Settlement of wrongful death lawsuit against a primary care physician following the death of a father of two children who suffered a heart attack. The defendant doctor failed to appreciate the severity and cause of the patient's complaints and failed to properly interpret the patient's EKG readings.
Failure to diagnose and treat coronary artery disease
Settlement against primary care physician for family of patient with multiple high risk factors who died from myocardial infarction.
Injuries During SurgeryThere are many risks inherent and accepted in surgeries, no matter how big or how small the procedure is. But a medical team making a preventable error and delivering poor care is not an accepted risk. In the surgical setting, medical malpractice claims can arise out of a number of medical errors. Some occur “pre-operatively”, during intubation by the anesthesiologist. Others can happen “intra-operatively” (during the operation) by the surgeon or nurses. And they can happen in the “post-operative” setting. Most hospitals and doctors take “never events” seriously. They design and follow procedures to prevent injuring their patients. And they must follow them. But too often, procedures are ignored. Worse, hospital practices like “double booking” can cause errors. The end result is the same: patients are hurt.
Aorta pierced during routine surgery
Just prior to scheduled trial, SUGARMAN's personal injury attorneys were able to obtain a substantial settlement for a patient who suffered catastrophic blood loss when the defendant surgeon pierced the patient's aorta with a surgical instrument during a surgery to treat diverticulitis. The surgery occurred at a hospital near Worcester, Massachusetts. The patient's blood loss led to the development of severe neurological injuries and personality changes that ended his work career and had a devastating effect on his marriage and family life.
Paralysis following back surgery
In 2017, the plaintiff underwent surgery at a Boston-area hospital to correct a herniated disc in his back. SUGARMAN's attorneys demonstrated that the neurosurgeon performed the procedure with improper technique, resulting in permanent paralysis which could not be reversed with additional surgeries. The surgeon’s operative note was written and signed weeks after the initial surgery and the neuromonitoring records conflicted with the surgeon’s version of events. The case settled on behalf of the plaintiff and his minor son after discovery was nearly complete.
Negligent removal of kneecap during surgery
Medical malpractice settlement against orthopedic surgeon and his practice group for the inappropriate surgical removal of a 50-year-old man's left kneecap in treatment of multi-compartmental knee arthritis.
Improperly positioning patient during surgery
Gynecological malpractice verdict against OB/GYN for negligence in improperly positioning patient during surgery resulting in neuropathy, and injury to her ureter. The verdict is the largest ever recorded in the District Courts of Massachusetts.
Patient dies from pulmonary emboli following cancer surgery
Settlement for family of man who died after undergoing major abdominal surgery for appendiceal cancer. Post-operatively, the surgeon ordered Venodyne boots be applied to the patient's lower extremities in order to mitigate the risk of the patient developing pulmonary emboli. A nurse caring for the patient, however, failed to apply the boots during a 12 hour shift. Soon after, the patient collapsed and died from bilateral pulmonary emboli.
Negligent lumbar disc surgery
Settlement for 48-year-old patient when spinal surgeon damaged a nerve root during surgery. The patient sustained lifelong personal injuries as a result.
Jury verdict for Massachusetts woman injured on operating table
An Essex County jury sitting in Newburyport rendered a verdict in favor of a 42-year-old woman who suffered significant neck injuries at a hospital in Lynn, MA, after being positioned on an operating room table for routine surgery. After she was anesthetized and medically paralyzed, her unsecured head fell off the table resulting in permanent nerve damage to her neck.
Wrongful death following surgery at Boston-area VA hospital
Settlement for widow and adult children of a 71 year-old veteran following improper placement of a feeding tube during esophagus surgery. During two separate surgeries, the defendant surgeon failed to secure the feeding tube into the small bowel and instead pierced the bowel, causing bile leakage, infection and the patient’s death. The case resolved following extensive discovery and prior to trial in the Federal Court for the District of Massachusetts.
Displacement of lumbar interbody graft following surgery
Medical malpractice settlement for young mother and her family against a neurosurgeon who failed to properly place a lumbar interbody graft during a fusion surgery. Post-operative stage diagnostic studies revealed that the graft was displaced and deforming her iliac vein and arteries. The patient subsequently underwent two life threatening procedures and was left with significant neurological injuries.
Medication ErrorsSUGARMAN attorneys have won all kinds of medical malpractice cases involving medication or drug errors. Doctors, nurses, hospitals, and pharmacists all have a job to do in keeping patients safe from harm. But sometimes, they don't do that job. Whether wrong drug, wrong dosage, or the failure to administer the right medication, these errors should never happen. If they do, SUGARMAN's lawyers can help.
Hospice company overmedicates patient for 5 years
A week before trial was scheduled to begin, SUGARMAN principals David McCormack and Benjamin Zimmermann reached a significant settlement for their client and her husband in a case involving negligent hospice care over the course of many years. SUGARMAN's client was an at-home hospice patient of the defendants for over 5 years and had been prescribed excessive and increasing amounts of narcotic pain medications to the point where she was unable to perform basic tasks. After not receiving answers to their concerns about the client's deteriorating condition, her family brought her to a local hospital, where medical providers immediately began weaning her off all the medications. The client's condition improved almost immediately. Through discovery and motion practice, SUGARMAN uncovered the hospice company's employee bonus program which incentivized employees to keep patients in hospice care and to avoid patients from being seen at hospitals or by outside providers. During the case, SUGARMAN also defeated the defendants' motion seeking to dismiss the case on various legal grounds -- a Superior Court judge found that all of the client's claims were legally and factually supported. The settlement was the second largest personal injury settlement reported in Massachusetts for 2021.
Patient dies after hospital administers wrong medication
Pre-discovery settlement in wrongful death medical malpractice case for family of a 91 year old man who died in a Boston-area hospital as a result of the medical staff giving him a high dose of a psychiatric medication intended for another patient. Soon after filing suit, SUGARMAN’s attorneys served a demand letter on the hospital’s insurer for its failure to make a settlement offer when liability was clear. The case settled soon after.
Pharmacy dispenses wrong medication
Pre-trial settlement for man who developed severe Levaquin-induced tendonitis with resulting complications after his local pharmacy dispensed Levaquin to him instead of a sleep aid. The error went undetected for two months.
Kidney damage from over-prescription of NSAIDS
Settlement of medical malpractice case on behalf of 70-year-old patient who was over-prescribed NSAIDS (Indomethacin) by physician and nurse practitioner in Quincy, MA, to treat gout for more than two years. The medication caused irreversible kidney failure, forcing the patient into dialysis for several years.
Patient suffers debilitating stroke after not receiving medication
Pre-suit settlement of medical malpractice case for 61-year-old man who suffered major stroke after his doctors and nurses failed to administer a critical medication for two days while the man was a hospital inpatient following cardiac surgery.
Medical malpractice - Anoxic brain injury and death
Settlement against physician and hospital following the death of a seventy-eight- year-old woman, who died from anoxic encephalopathy following an inappropriate dosage and combination of narcotic and anti-anxiety medications, and improper monitoring during MRI.
The Basics of Medical Malpractice in Massachusetts
Medical malpractice in Massachusetts is negligence in the medical care and treatment provided by a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional. There are many different types of medical professional malpractice, such as:
- Child birth errors
- Failure to diagnose, or misdiagnosis
- Anesthesia errors
- Surgical injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Medication errors
This is not a complete list, by any means.
- Hospitals/Urgent care/Treatment centers/Clinics/etc.
- Failing to diagnose, or sometimes misdiagnosing an illness or condition
- Mixing up test results, or ignoring the results
- Failing to communicate properly with the other treating doctors and medical providers
- Prescribing the wrong medication or wrong dosage
- Inadequately treating a condition
- Premature discharge or poor aftercare
- Unnecessary surgery, or wrong-site surgery
- Leaving a foreign object inside the body
- Failing to properly monitor a patient while undergoing surgery and during recovery
- Failure to warn patient of certain risks (see “What is informed consent?”)
In order to prove a medical malpractice case, top medical malpractice lawyers in Massachusetts must prove three things:
- Your healthcare provider was negligent
- The negligence caused the injury
- You sustained a loss or damages as a result of that injury
- Reasonable medical expenses that have been incurred or that will be incurred in the future;
- Lost wages, loss of earning capacity, other economic losses;
- Pain and mental suffering, loss of companionship, embarrassment, and other items of general damage;
- Any impairment or loss of bodily function, whether temporary or permanent in duration;
- Scarring or disfigurement caused by the defendant’s negligence; and/or
- Loss of chance of survival.
When a family member sustains serious injuries, the whole family can suffer. For example, if a father of a family is the victim of a surgical error and is left paralyzed, that affects his whole family and their financial well-being. For this reason, the law recognizes the right of certain family members of an injured patient to bring their own claims against the wrong-doer for their own loss. Massachusetts courts describe this type of claim as “a loss of consortium claim,” and can extend to spouses, children, and parents. This includes loss in the following areas:
- loss of companionship and society;
- loss of comfort, solace or moral support;
- any loss of enjoyment of sexual relations; and
- any restrictions on social or recreational life.
How Medical Malpractice Cases Work
If a lawsuit is brought, costs can include legal research fees, depositions, and hiring expert witnesses, among others. This can add up to a significant amount of money. Often, SUGARMAN “advances” these funds to be repaid by the client only if the claim is settled or if your attorney achieves a jury verdict. This means that you don’t have to be wealthy to get your day in court; you get a fair chance.
SUGARMAN’s personal injury attorneys typically work on a contingency fee basis. This means a legal fee is only paid if the claim is successful in obtaining compensation. If there’s no recovery of compensation, there is no fee, and no repayment of the out-of-pocket expenses.
All fees and out-of-pocket expense reimbursements are agreed to up front, in a written contract signed by both the law firm and the client.
While each law firm may vary in the details, generally a good malpractice attorney will follow a process like ours.
First Contact and Initial Meeting: During this meeting we will learn about you, your life, and what happened to you. Before the initial meeting ends, we may have you sign medical authorizations so we can obtain your medical records.
Investigation: Our investigation can and often involves legal research and analysis, a review of all the relevant medical records, and hiring a medical expert to review medical records. The investigation determines if you have a case.
The Complaint and Initial Steps: A personal injury lawsuit begins with your attorney filing a Complaint on your behalf in court. This is a legal document explaining what happened to you as a result of the defendant’s negligence. In medical malpractice cases, the Court also schedules a Medical Malpractice Tribunal (composed of a judge, a lawyer, and a physician or health care provider in the same specialty as the defendant) to evaluate the legality of your claims. At this time, SUGARMAN’s lawyers will present an Offer of Proof that describe the facts of the case. If the Tribunal decides in the Plaintiff’s favor, the case may proceed without having to post a bond. If not, a cash bond must be posted (by the attorney) before the Plaintiff is allowed to continue.
Discovery: This step allows each side to learn about their opponent’s case prior to trial. Both sides typically receive written interrogatories or questions. This prepares you for depositions. Depositions are a means of receiving sworn testimony from parties and witnesses who have information about what happened in the case. Once discovery is completed, the next step in your case is receiving a trial date from the court.
Trial: There are some cases that are resolved prior to trial, either through negotiations or with the help of a mediator. But SUGARMAN’s personal injury attorneys prepare each case as if will be tried to conclusion in front of a jury. Jury trials can take anywhere from several days to several weeks. In Massachusetts, personal injury cases are typically tried to a jury of twelve in the Superior Court. Attorneys on both sides try to select jurors they believe will give their client a fair trial. Once the jury and alternates are selected and sworn in, the trial is officially underway.
There is no cut-and-dried way to find the right lawyer. Often, clients are referred by local general practice lawyers or by a family attorney to personal injury law firms.
The internet is a useful tool for anyone thinking about bringing a claim, but careful consideration and vetting is required in order to separate marketing claims from real-world client results. Reviewing personal injury law firm websites can help you learn more about various firms before making an informed decision.
For more information on finding the right lawyer for you, see our frequently asked questions page.
In Massachusetts, there are limits to how much a patient can be awarded, which are called damages. The limits placed are called damage caps. The following are the types of damages available to patients who have been injured during medical treatment:
Compensatory damages: These damages reimburse the patient for expenses like lost wages and medical costs. This includes past, present, and future medical costs associated with the injury. The patient must provide proof of their expenses, such as copies of medical bills, to be awarded compensatory damages. Compensatory damages also include lost potential earnings, under the Massachusetts doctrine of “loss or diminution of earning capacity.” This is based on the skill and training the person had at the time of the injury. Massachusetts does not place a cap on these damages.
Non-economic damages: These are damages that cover intangible costs like pain and suffering. In Massachusetts, an injured patient cannot receive more than $500,000 in non-economic damages. There are certain circumstances, including substantial disfigurement or impairment of bodily functions, where this cap is lifted.
Punitive damages: These damages are rarely awarded in Massachusetts medical malpractice cases unless the patient dies due to the willful misconduct of the medical professional. Punitive damages are intended to punish the healthcare provider for purposefully causing injury.
Additionally, damages against a charitable organization, which most Massachusetts hospitals are, are limited to $100,000. While the hospital may not be liable for more than this amount under the charitable cap, employees such as doctors or nurses may be sued for their negligence. Learn more here about how compensatory and punitive damages are calculated in Massachusetts.
Other Common Questions about Medical Malpractice
Negligence is the failure of a responsible person, either by omission or by action, to exercise an appropriate degree of care, vigilance, and forethought. To prove that a healthcare provider was negligent, one must show that the provider did not give the “standard of care” that a patient should have received.
It depends on the circumstances and whether the patient was receiving medical treatment at the time the nursing home injury or abuse occurs.
A misdiagnosis can be malpractice under certain circumstances. It must be proven that a doctor or healthcare provider failed to properly diagnosis the patient and that the average doctor or provider would have properly diagnosed the patient. It also needs to be proven that the patient suffered an injury or harm as a result of the misdiagnosis.
“Standard of care” means what an average medical provider in the field would do. For example, imagine a patient goes to the Emergency Department with sharp wrist pain after falling. If an average doctor would use an X-ray to check for a broken bone, then that would be the standard of care.
A matter is proved by a “preponderance of the evidence” if after all of the evidence has been weighed, the matter is more probably true than false. This is the standard of proof in all in medical malpractice actions and other personal injury cases. It is less strict than what is applied in a criminal case, where the prosecution must prove its case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The standard of a preponderance of the evidence essentially means the greater weight of the evidence.
When the patient’s own actions contribute to their injuries or worsening of their condition, it can be considered contributory negligence. For example, failing to follow the doctor’s instructions could make the patient at least in part liable.
Massachusetts follows a modified comparative negligence rule. This means the patient’s award of damages is reduced in accordance with their fault. If the patient is found a certain percentage at fault, their damages are reduced by that percentage. If a jury finds the patient more responsible for her damages than a doctor or healthcare provider, the patient is not entitled to recover under Massachusetts law.
Before a medical procedure or treatment, the health professional must advise the patient of the potential outcomes and potential side effects or complications. By providing this information, there is informed consent by the patient. If this conversation does not take place, and the patient is harmed, there may be a case for medical malpractice, although Massachusetts has fairly strict rules that are unfriendly to patients in these types of cases.
No. Once a case is settled, there can be no further legal action in connection with the events, as in any civil case. If there is a settlement in a medical malpractice case, the compensation paid will be for injuries to date as well as any further injuries that may arise in the future.
Statutory requirements are simply legal requirements that come from laws passed by the State or Federal Government.
Yes, Massachusetts has statutory requirements for medical malpractice cases. These requirements specify when a claim can be brought, what type of notice must be provided, limit the damages that can be collected, and require specialized types of evidence.
For instance, medical malpractice lawyers in Massachusetts must have a licensed healthcare provider in the same field as the defendant testify that there was a violation of the standard of care.
In Massachusetts, a patient has three years from the time they learn about their injury to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. This counts from the time they should have reasonably learned about their injury, up to seven years from the date of the actual incident.
The exception to the seven-year cap is in cases of retained foreign objects, such as surgical instruments. There are different rules that apply when the patient is a minor child. This makes it especially important to talk with a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as there are any signs of injury. To file the lawsuit, the patient and attorney do not need to have completed all investigation of the claim by the deadline.
Medical Malpractice Attorneys
It can be difficult to prove a doctor or healthcare provider was negligent.
Your attorney must show the treatment you received was below the standard of care of a provider in the same field – meaning an average doctor or healthcare provider would have avoided the error and harm.
Located in Massachusetts
Complicating things further, Massachusetts has specific legal requirements for medical malpractice cases. They restrict when a claim can be made, limit the damages, and require certain types of evidence that are not required in other personal injury cases. In addition, written notice to the negligent provider is required before a lawsuit can be filed.
60 Years Experience
SUGARMAN’s lawyers have over 60 years of experience representing patients harmed by medical malpractice and errors.
Our firm has an outstanding track record of verdicts and settlements throughout Massachusetts and has successfully handled almost every type of medical malpractice claim.